Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Tuesday 14th - We meet a friend

There is no rush to get up early today but the background noise doesn't encourage idleness. We have a leisurely breakfast and then pack. We discovered that one of the India Mikers, Drews60, is also resident at the Fairlawn so we arrange to meet him for a beer before we leave to go to Delhi. On paying our bill we met one of the two English ladies who own the Fairlawn and who have preserved it in such a unique style. Our plan is to stroll over to Esplanade to catch a No 12 tram up to where we saw some interesting shops.

We miss a No 12 by a few seconds but assume that there will be another before too long. We watch a dozen or more trams go by, all going to the wrong place, before one arrives that will take us part way. By now it is getting very hot and we are glad to leave the Esplanade transport interchange which smells like an enormous urinal, basically because it is.

Our substitute tram takes us to BBD Bagh, named for a group of Indian Nationalists who were hanged for the assassination of a British official in 1930. This area is spread round an artificial lake and has some scenic attraction but we were more interested in finding some drinking water and some shade.

After another 30 minutes of waiting for the right tram to turn up we aborted the mission and returned to the Fairlawn for a pot of tea.

We had a very shady corner of the beer garden, safe from bird droppings so decided to make ourselves at home with a beer and a plate of onion pakoras. In due course Drews60 joined us and we whiled away an hour or so swapping tales of India. We were also joined briefly by the man from Paul Industries who had come to collect the money and our forwarding address.

It was time to get a cab to Sealdah Station. The traffic was as bad as any we have seen and the pollution was so bad that our driver tied a scarf over his face. It took 45 minutes for a trip that took about 10 minutes last Tuesday. The porters descended and we caved in at Rs 200. It's too hot for donkey work. The only times that we have felt a little ripped off in Kolkata is when arriving or leaving.

The porters find a spot on the platform and R is left in charge while D goes to enquire which cabin we have been allocated. It turns out to be B, one of the two berth coupes so we don't have to worry about treading on anybody else's toes. Even better the seats face the direction that we are going to travel in. The porters pile our luggage into the cabin and depart rich men, while D walks up to the front of the train to look at the engine, which hasnt arrived yet. Walking back along the platform D took a video to show the variety of activities happening on the platform. This lasts nearly 5 minutes at normal walking pace until a policeman said "No Photos"

The train left on time and we were soon being given our greeting of fruit juice and a red rose each. For the next three hours there was a fairly constant flow of tea, soup, vegetarian supper and ice cream. Railway paneer has not improved any since last year. The western loo is inspected and R deems it "Not the worst that I have seen". As we are by ourselves we decide to flout the strict no alcohol rule and have a nightcap before retiring.

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